New report on effectiveness of scrutiny launched by APSE and CfGS
New CfGS research, commissioned by APSE, has been published which highlights that local scrutiny and the way it holds councils to account is still often perceived to be weak and lacks impact. Accountability and scrutiny: The issues for local government in a changing political environment, which was launched at the APSE Annual General Meeting on Wednesday 6 September. The reports findings are based on a series of structured interviews, a comprehensive survey of scrutiny officers and members and desk research.
Jacqui McKinlay, Chief Executive of CfGS, and lead author said of the report’s launch, “It’s disappointing that scrutiny is still perceived as weak, a trend that has continued and potentially worsened. The good news is there is a recognition of its value and the changes to improve the situation are relatively easy to implement. More than ever, being open to scrutiny a vital part or running public services. Scrutiny is an important bridge between local communities and councillors; ensuring residents’ concerns are addressed. Too often when we see public service failings it is because communities have not been given an effective voice. Effective scrutiny must act as the conduit for that voice.”
Paul O’Brien, Chief Executive of APSE said, “With devolution in England, collaboration and reform in Wales, the challenges presented in Northern Ireland by Brexit and the interface with Westminster within Scotland scrutiny at a local level, ensuring accountability and transparency is linked to the big policy agendas has never been more vital. Scrutiny now needs to be an agile force in local government; adapting to the new models of governance; the challenges of service delivery and increased demand on our public services; and developing an open dialogue with residents and businesses. It should not been seen as a bolt-on to democracy, but rather a crucial function within local areas.”
The report concludes with recommendations based on the 200 responses received from the survey and interviews about how scrutiny can be improved, which include:
- People both within and outside the council must discuss and agree what role scrutiny should have;
- In all types of scrutiny, members’ roles must be prioritised and focused;
- Scrutiny should be built on a culture of cooperation rather than confrontation;
- Scrutiny must adapt to respond to new governance models, how services are delivered and the needs of resident.
The full report can be viewed on the APSE website.